90 of 94 people found the following review helpful
7-star sound, detracted by strange receiver limitations
, July 10, 2008
This review is from: Marantz SR8002 Surround Receiver (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
After 9 years, it was time to upgrade my former top-of-the-line Sony ES receiver (STR-DA 777ES) to take advantage of improved audio and high-definition video switching. After reading all the professional reviews, I settled on the Marantz SR8002. Three weeks after an extensive configuration and testing, I must say that I am pleased overall with my choice. However, several surprising configuration limitations keep me from giving it a full-on 5-star review.
Let me preface my review by stating that my home theater / audio configuration is on the higher-end of the scale: 3 KEF Reference speakers for the front 3 channels, Boston Acoustics rear surrounds and subwoofer, Sony ES SACD player (and yes, I have an SACD collection!), Bang & Olfusen turntable, Sony reference DVD player, AppleTV, Roku music server, JVC SVHS VCR, Mitsubishi HDTV monitor.
My first priority was in upgrading the audio quality, and I must say that in this respect, the Marantz SR8002 far exceeded my expectations. As a 7.1 channel amplifier, there are 7 x 125watt channels available, native decoding of the latest lossless HD digital audio on BluRay (DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHD), Audyssey microphone and room equilazation, and THX Select 2 certification. For the ultimate audio experience, the Marantz SR8002 offers two "Pure Direct" modes - the first one bypasses the equalization and surround circuits, the second mode completely disables all video and display logic for even shorter audio output path. The SR8002 also provides a toroidal power transformer for extra headroom when needed, and in my setup the audio performance is dramatic.
I chose not to expand my current 5.1 speaker configuration to 7.1 channel. In this setup, the SR8002 gives you the option of taking the two unused channels and configuring them for a second amplified room/zone, or bi-amplification of your front speakers. I chose the latter, as my KEF Reference speakers support bi-amplified wiring, providing 250 watts per channel into Left and Right channels. Let me tell you - the pure stereo performance in this configuration will blow your socks off! Friends could not believe the sound in our fairly large family room was from 2-speakers only. And, the multi-channel modes (especially NEO6: Music) are quite outstanding even with a 2-channel source. Quite simply, the audio performance of the SR8002 is "7-star" on a 5-star scale.
My second priority was in upgrading to a receiver capable of decoding the high-resolution audio of BluRay, while providing high definition video switching (via HDMI and component). In this respect the receiver delivers, but with some surprising limitations. On paper, the Marantz SR8002 offers more connectors and options than you would ever need. You have 4 HDMI 1.3 connections + 2 HDMI 1.3 outputs (good!), 4 component HD connections + 2 component HD outputs (good!), 4 TOSlink digital audio (including front), 3 coax digital audio, and a plethora of S-video, composite video, and analog audio inputs.
But in reality, there are serious limitations...
First of all, it is inexcusable for a receiver of this cost to be missing a phonograph input. Yes, for $50 you can buy a phono preamp that gives you good performance and doesn't have the A/C hum of your $25 Radio Shack unit. But, come on.
Secondly, and more discouraging, despite the plethora of connections you only have 8 discrete settings that can be assigned. (The AM/FM tuner is another, nonassignable input, as is the optional XM radio input). This means that even if you could connect to all of the analog + digital inputs available you can only use 8 of them! This is quite a surprising and serious limitation. Even my Sony ES from 1999 had 12 discrete inputs!
The on-screen receiver setup lets you assign specific HDMI, component, and digital audio for your 8 choices. Each input can also be renamed. But you cannot use a single digital input for more than one setting. And you cannot reassign the analog video (S-Video/Composite) or analog audio inputs.
An example of this strange limitation is the analog input of the "AUX2" input also happens to be used as the Left and Right input channels for the 7.1 input. I had to reconfigure my setup to reassign the "AUX2" input to the digital CD input, which I also connected to the 5.1 (SACD) output from my CD player. Because there are only 8 input settings, I had to assign the "AUX1" (front) input to the digital audio and video inputs from my AppleTV. This means that the front AUX1 inputs are completely unusable, since all 8 inputs were assigned from rear input sources.
Another big surprise was the subwoofer speaker setting. By default, it is set to "mix"...all bass output is diverted to the subwoofer at an assignable crossover frequency. This works well for (and is recommended for) THX and multi-channel video sources. But strangely in "mix" setting, the SR8002 does NOT output the bass to the subwoofer for two-channel analog inputs AND it does not output the low frequencies to the front speakers. I spent about 3 hours trying to figure out why my new (required) phonograph preamp sounded so terrible before I discovered this problem. Setting the subwoofer to "BOTH" properly sends full-range audio to the front speakers. AND, it enables the subwoofer for the simulated modes such as NEO6. Not only does this not make sense, it is not documented anywhere in the manual.
There are other annoyances:
- FM / AM radio reception is below average. I was looking forward to trying the "HD radio" capability, but the tuner reception is so bad that it can never get a strong enough signal to use any of the HD radio broadcasts in my area. Compared with my 1999 Sony ES receiver using the same antenna configuration I can only tune half of the stations. My CLOCK RADIO gets much better radio reception than this $2000 receiver!
- the front of the receiver has two large controls for Source and Volume - each one has a bright blue LED indicator that does NOT move with the control. So, while you might think that the volume indicator would indicate the volume level it doesn't. The bright blue indicators are always at 12-o clock position. And the front input control does not have a positive feedback to let you know you have switched inputs.
- the remote control button/display backlight is ONLY activated when you press one of the two buttons on the bottom of the remote
- the remote does not offer discrete settings for all surround modes or settings (although thankfully there are discrete power on/off codes)
- the onscreen display is very primitive (think 1982 Apple ][+ 40x24 characters)
In summary, despite the outstanding audio performance of the Marantz SR8002 (once you figure out the subwoofer and other settings!), I cannot give this a full 5-star rating because of the serious limitations and limited inputs.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you?